During times of violence, those in need often receive aid, but period health often is a neglected aspect of assistance. Places with ongoing ethnic violence, war and displaced people need solutions for their women and girls to stay protected from infections and infertility issues. Hygiene is important and solutions are more sustainable when operating on the ground and pinpointing specific causes for specific issues. Kashmir, Palestine and Ukraine highlight the power of education to alleviate period poverty during conflict.
In Kashmir, many women cannot afford pads. Due to oppressive government officials and hateful bias in the region, many have lower access to health care and are constantly on the move. This cycle causes period poverty and cultural taboos continue to worsen the issue. Local doctors who treat tribal women see fever, vomiting, infection and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) as a result of the women not properly using reusable period cloths.
Tribal women in Jammu and Kashmir doctors are telling women that “Severe infection can lead to adhesions [scar tissue] in the uterus, which can block the fallopian tubes and, in certain cases, lead to infertility,” Open Democracy reported. It is unusual for girls to learn how to manage their period or how to adapt to hygienic practices with limited resources.
Shazia Chaudhary is a Gujjar activist who holds counseling sessions on menstruation to educate nomadic girls about sanitary pads and proper washing for reusable rags. According to Open Democracy, less than 10% of tribal women in Jammu and Kashmir have accurate knowledge about periods or receive period education. The process of providing education to alleviate period poverty can eliminate serious health concerns.
UNICEF is creating programs in Palestine to provide education to alleviate period poverty and to help those in extreme poverty learn about personal hygiene and have access to clean water and facilities. Not all women and girls have access to sanitary products, especially in times of uncertainty. As a result of historical forced movement, conflict in 2014 and destruction of infrastructure, many restrooms are not sanitary and lack privacy.
The combination of sanitation concerns and the overall taboo of periods at a young age leads to many young school girls with poor period hygiene. This can cause infection and possible reproductive issues. After success in 2012 and 2016, programs are expanding. “As part of its new country programme action plan in Palestine over 2018-2022, UNICEF is planning to continue with the WASH in schools programmes to address unmet needs identified in vulnerable communities,” said UNICEF in its report.
By creating better facilities and period knowledge, in schools, young women can have a private area to clean reusable products or dispose of reusable products, without feeling embarrassed.
Ukraine and Future Perspectives
Refugees all around the world face insecurity with sanitary products and it is Ukrainian refugees and citizens who now face this concern. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, more than 4 million refugees have fled the country. According to Global Citizen, many of the refugees are women “who could not bring enough supplies to manage their periods and do not have the means to buy them.” Existing programs like I Support The Girls (ISTG), which women created and run, are starting to help “on the ground” in nearby countries to expand their assistance.
Many organizations have received heightened interest in donors, following the invasion of Ukraine and hope that the interest in period poverty and education continues after the war for other women in need.
Refugees and war zones all around the world face similar period products and sanitary needs. The Global Citizen is able to give credit to charities that will continue to help Ukrainian women and other countries, for a long to come.
– Karen Krosky